Early this week I watched a short film called The 53rd Hour. It's by a single dad who gets visitation with his kids every other weekend, and it focuses on that first hour after saying goodbye.
But that doesn't change the fact that it's always hard to say goodbye to the munchkins, knowing I won't get to hug and kiss them for another week.
Monty usually picks them up in the evening, so the hardest time for me is the next day. The evening is okay because I use the time to pick up the house, run the kids' laundry from the week, get myself organized for the coming week. I don't always think about that time being without the kids because it's such a part of my normal Sunday evening routine, whether they're with me or not.
But that next morning can be killer. I only have to make breakfast for one. I don't have to convince Puck that he absolutely must comb his hair before school. I don't have pigtails to tighten six thousand times before lunch. On that eighth day there's a void in my schedule that would be taken up with food and putting on socks and the slow walk to the mailbox and back, stopping at every seam in the sidewalk to jump over it.
The day kind of floats by. Without a traditional job and no pre-K schedule to remind me of where I am in the day, it's supper time before I know it, and I'm scrounging among leftovers for something to eat at my desk while I work. There's no bubble bath and lotion on shivering chicken legs before bed. There's no trip (after trip after trip) to the bedroom to put Tink back in bed to give Puck another hug to tuck them both in one more time. There's no checking on snoring bodies with arms thrown wide once more before I go to bed myself.
There's just me.
I tell myself--and others--that the schedule is good, especially with my job. When the kids are with Monty I put in extra hours and do my cleaning and shopping so that when Puck and Tink are with me, I can devote extra time and attention to them. I don't have to work quite such long hours. We can go on adventures. But I still feel it deeply when I wake up on those Monday mornings to an empty house and go about my day.
There are lots of reasons it's hard to be a single parent. It's hard to be the only parent home taking care of munchkins. It's hard to be the sole financial support for a child. It's hard to balance self-care with child-care when you don't have another parent in the home that can take the kids for a walk so you can shower.
And if you share custody--even minimally--with another parent, it's really hard to get up the next morning and know that those munchkins aren't there to give hugs and kisses and demand a different breakfast from the one you've actually made for them.
The 53rd Hour is geared toward dads. It's geared toward parents who have to wait a couple of weeks to get their kids back. But every eighth day, I feel what they feel: two toddler-shaped holes in my life for another week.
The eighth day hurts. Every damn time.